AQHA STALLION, 1967 - 1992
Excerpts from articles about the great Easy Jet
EASY JET, si 100, by Jet Deck, out of Lena's Bar (by Three Bars TB), is one of the most influential speed sires of Quarter Horses. Perhaps no other racing American Quarter Horse has had a greater or more controversial racing career than Easy Jet.
During his 2-year-old campaign, he was loaded into the gates 26 times, a feat that some think would have crippled most juveniles. Despite the criticism, he won 22 races that year, including the All American, Kansas, Sunland Fall, Columbus Triple Crown and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress Futurities. He was named World Champion Quarter Running Horse, Champion Stallion and Champion 2-Year-Old Colt. He hit the track again as a 3-year-old and was just as successful, attaining the titles of World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse and Champion Quarter Running 3-Year-Old Colt. He retired with 38 career starts that included 27 firsts, seven seconds and two thirds.
As a sire, Easy Jet was equally impressive. By the end of 1993, his direct offspring had earned more than $25 million on the track. Additionally, he had sired more than 1,500 horses who had gained their Registers of Merit.
Easy Jet: The Next Generation — The Quarter Racing Record, January 15, 1987
IT'S GETTING TO THE POINT where Easy Jet's coveted position as the all-time leading sire of money earners is just one of the stallion's smaller distinctions.
Sure, it takes an extraordinary horse to remain on top of the heap for so long, but what's beginning to look even more remarkable is the fact that Easy Jet's sons and daughters are carrying on the tradition without missing a beat.
Based on a painstaking analysis of official AQHA records obtained on December 24, 1986, Easy Jet appears in the first or second generation of Quarter Horses that have run out more than $72.7 million. The old guy himself joins forces with his sons and daughters to take credit for 6,180 Register of Merit runners, 455 stakes winners and 520 stakes-placed horses.
These are records not easily broken. Yet Easy Jet and his offspring will continue to add to those totals for years to come. □
How They Ran—Easy Jet: Without Limitations —
The Quarter Racing Record, January, 1988
January 5, 1969: A chestnut colt shot out of the ten hole at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, spent :17.64 seconds on 330 yards to qualify for the Blue Ribbon Futurity. A week later he collected his first stakes win in the finals at a reduced cost of :16.92.
SO BEGAN THE LEGEND OF EASY JET.
Volatile chapters of the legend were written in 1969 during one of the hardest hauls ever imposed on a two-year-old colt. The intensity of it caused more than a few in the running horse set to wonder whether Easy Jet's breeder, owner and trainer, Walter Merrick, was out to prove the colt or kill him. Walt's opinion of those opinions is typically Merrick: "They didn't know him or his kinfolks like I did."
Among the "kinfolks" are four individuals now sojourning in Valhalla that, over a period of three decades, had turned Walter Merrick into a legend himself before Easy Jet was foaled in 1967.
Midnight Jr, the sire of Belle Of Midnight, second dam of Easy Jet's sire, Jet Deck, won sixteen consecutive races for Walt in days when stall and motel accommodations were on the low side of nothing. They camped by straightaways more than once. "Junior" was one of the first horses Walt registered in AQHA, and with the kind assistance of some Joe Hancock mares, "the little horse" laid the foundation of the Merrick stud.
Walt bred, raised, trained and winningly raced Easy Jet's Thoroughbred dam, Lena's Bar by Three Bars. Her habit was to trounce Quarter Horses at their own distances. Lena's Bar was out of the sprinting mare Lena Valenti, which Walt had purchased off the track and continued racing successfully until adding her to his broodmare band.
After cleaning up at Blue Ribbon Downs, Easy Jet, Walt and jockey Elbert Minchey went to Columbus in mid-March. They won their Columbus Triple-Crown Futurity trial heat and picked up a second stakes win in the finals.
Moving on to La Bahia Downs in Goliad, the trio won in the Texas Futurity trials on March 30, but suffered their first defeat in the finals April 6 when Easy Jet ran second to the Top Moon gelding Mighty Moon.
May 11: Easy Jet led by five lengths in the Lubbock Downs Futurity trials and picked up another stakes in in the finals a week later.
During a short stay at Ruidoso Downs in early June, Minchey and Easy Jet presented the coveted Kansas Futurity win to Walt. Easy Jet's only challenger in the finals was the Three Chicks daughter, Miss Three Wars.
June 27: Easy Jet won in Oklahoma Futurity trials at La Mesa Park in Raton but was relegated to second in the July 6 finals. The victor by three-quarters length was a Jet Deck daughter that was appropriately named. They called her Hell's To Betsy.
Along about that time Elbert Minchey, who still rides for Walt today [article written in 1988], got tired and went home.
July 25: Easy Jet left the gates without Minchey for the first time and went the distance of 400 yards for the first time to qualify for the Raton Futurity in :19.83. Ray Spencer was in the irons.
August 1: A week after Easy Jet secured a berth in the Raton Futurity, Willie Lovell rode him to a win in the Rainbow Futurity trials at Ruidoso Downs. Two days later, August 3, Easy Jet returned to La Mesa Park, and with Spencer aboard, was second in the Raton Futurity, a scan nose behind Jet Deep.
A week later, Easy Jet and Willie Lovell were reunited in Ruidoso for the running of the Rainbow Futurity, which turned into Heartbreak lane for Easy Jet. He was fifth under the wire, running out of the money for the first time. Ahead of him, in order of their finish were the filly that chased him in the Kansas, Miss Three Wars and Go Together who was destined to become Easy Jet's nemesis in 1970.
Walt's comment on the Rainbow was, again, typically Merrick: "I may have been hauling him a little bit too hard."
Revenge was Easy Jet's on Labor Day with an All American Futurity neck win over Miss Three Wars.
Securing a win in the All American is often a cut-off point for two-year-olds that have been raced hard in preceding months. But by Labor Day of 1969, the pattern Walt had set was clear to all.
There would be no stopping.
September 28 through November 30: Easy Jet and Lovell left starting gates eight times without a loss. Four outs were in stakes races: The Laddie and Rocky Mountain Futurity in Colorado; the All American Congress Futurity in Ohio; and the Sunland Park Fall Futurity. Walt believes the Sunland trials and finals were Easy Jet's finest efforts.
"He just flew."
In the trials Easy Jet won by a length and a half over Go Together, going 400 yards in :19.76 on a fast track. In the finals, on a sloppy track, his time was :20.26, which put two lengths between him and Our Mott.
In 1969 Easy Jet became the fourth two-year-old in AQHA history to be named World Champion. Only Go Man Go, Laico Bird and Kaweah Bar preceded him. He bankrolled $409,155, a record for a single year. From 26 starts, racing at distances of 300, 350 and 400 yards, Easy Jet scored nine major stakes wins, 13 additional wins, and three stakes placed seconds.
After standing to a full book of mares in 1970, Easy Jet returned to the straightaway wars, and Walt's first objective was to give him another chance to capture the Rainbow.
In the Rainbow Derby trials, three noses were only inches apart at the wire. The winner was the filly, Royal Doulton. Second by a nose was Velox Bar. Easy Jet ran third.
July 6: Easy Jet was at even odds when Lovell rode him into the three hole for the Rainbow Derby finals where Lady Luck, in a lethal mood, waited. Easy Jet's hind foot landed behind the bracing bar. The track vet looked at that, thought about that, then gave the foot a nudge.
Startled, Easy Jet broke too soon, hit his head on the cute and damaged several teeth. Lovell would have taken him to the barn then and there, but the gates clanged open, Easy Jet - still dazed and with a bleeding mouth - was off to chase the rainbow.
Easy Jet crossed last under the wire that day. With the exception of one horse he had not before, he had headed every individual preceding him to the wire, most of them more than once. The winner by a neck was Go Together.
Walt's pony horse ride from gate to wire after the Rainbow felt like the longest he had ever made, and he rode with his head down.
"What I hated is that the people in the stands didn't know what happened in the gate. A lot of them thought Easy Jet was through as a race horse. I knew he wasn't."
From 12 starts June 27 through November 15, 1970, Easy Jet gathered five wins, four seconds and two thirds. He took stakes wins in the Raton Derby, the Rocky Mountain Derby and the Wonderland Stakes, was second in the Sunland Fall Derby and third in the World's Championship Classic.
Harriet Peckham's filly, Go Together, haunted Easy Jet throughout 1970. After her Rainbow Derby win, she headed him in the 440-yard Championship Classic trials at Ruidoso, then blistered dirt to the wire in the finals in 0:19.70. Cinder Leo, only a nose ahead of Easy Jet, was breathing hard on her neck.
Go Together ran third to Easy Jet in the Raton Derby, a neck behind Reller.
Easy Jet and Go Together met again November 6 and turned their quarter-mile Sunland Fall Derby trial into an outfront duel a length and a half ahead of the nearest challenger, Red Chigger Man. Go Together, a nose ahead of Easy Jet, scooted under the wire in :21.69.
Easy Jet said goodbye to straightaways in the Sunland Derby on November 15, and it was a riproaring farewell in which the colt was trailed by three familiar fillies: Go Together, Royal Doulton, and Miss Three Wars. But another individual was out to win that day. Go Moon took the derby in :21.64, a neck ahead of Easy Jet.
The Champion Stallion and Champion Three-Year-Old Colt titles went to Easy Jet in 1970. His wages, $35,566, upped his bank account to $445,721, making him the leading Quarter Horse money earner of all time.
The legend of Easy Jet has not been written without bruises. In the early 1980s, his $30 million syndication fell apart. A stack of legal paper growing taller usually requires keeping a horse where he is until the mess is settled, but Walt was not happy with the situation.
"He didn't deserve having his reputation hurt that way. We went to Buena Suerte and got him. We didn't have any trouble. If we had, he'd have come home anyway."
The only circumstance that could ever separate Easy Jet from the Merrick family occurred last September . Shen in times of financial trouble you know on every door and get no answer, you sell the best you have, or fold.
Today the ongoing legend of Easy Jet continues under the ownership of Roi Young and the management of Jerry Young at Gateway Farms, in Hemet, California. The legend of Easy Jet will never end, but -- eventually -- his tour of stud duty will. When the time comes, Roi Young would willingly retire him to the proverbial clover with generous orders of bran mash on the side. But sale terms and conditions locked in arrangements for the horse's sunset year.
When Easy Jet retires, he will go home. □
From Quarter Horse TRACK, May, 1992,
by Mark Herron:
The Quarter Horse racing industry lost one of its brightest stars when Easy Jet was humanely put down on May 8, at the Lazy E Ranch in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
The 25-year-old World Champion, who won 22 races as a two-year-old and went on to sire the earners of $25 million, had suffered from chronic laminitis (founder), which originated years ago. He was taken to Sayre, Oklahoma, and buried in a tree-lined paddock on Walter Merrick's 14 Ranch, where the horse had spent much of his storied life.
....At the time of his death, Easy Jet was owned by Mark Allen, Inc. Marty Powers [manager of Lazy E] said Allen and two veterinarians made the mutual decision to relieve the stallion from the pain the laminitis caused.
"We did the best that we could do for him. he just reached the point of no return," Powers said. "But his heart was so big and strong. he had the personality of the great horse that he was. His heart rate showed that he was in excessive pain, but he never showed it outwardly. To me he was the greatest. I'm just deeply grateful to Mark Allen for allowing the horse to come here." □